Windham Celebrates Its Birthday

By AlpineZone News |
Jan 17 2005 - 02:31 PM

WINDHAM, New York ??” On January 18, 1981, Irv Naylor and Snow Time, Inc. (then known as Ski Roundtop, Inc.), purchased Windham Mountain. So each year a “birthday” is celebrated at Windham on that date. Indeed, it’s such a cause for celebration that the party has grown into the area’s week-long Winter Carnival, a fest scheduled for January 18-22 this year.

Things have changed radically in the two dozen years since the private Windham Ski Club became public-accessible as Ski Windham, according to Dan Frank, Windham Mountain president. “We’ve changed everything; it’s been a whirlwind,” he says. “We have invested in the neighborhood of thirty-two million dollars; installed five lifts; built the mid-mountain lodge in ’84, the base lodge in 1989 and a substantial base lodge addition in 2003. We have tripled the snowmaking by adding more guns, more pipe and more efficiency. And we have increased the skiable acreage by about one-third.”

Pretty impressive. Especially when you consider where things started.

The mountain upon which the ski area sits is actually named Cave Mountain. During the 1950s, according to Frank, Cave Mountain was identified by the State of New York as particularly suitable for ski area development. Around 1958 or so, several local businessmen decided to act on that recommendation, and they built a ski area that consisted of a geodesic hut, a lift and a few trails.

The ski area on Cave Mountain operated for about three years, but the locals couldn’t make a go of it. Along came Tom Sheridan.

Sheridan, a “downstate” attorney, bought the ski hill’s assets and some additional land. He eliminated the Cave Mountain name, calling his ski hill Windham Mountain, and re-opened to the public. At the end of the 1960s, he converted Windham into a private club. “Tom, who still comes here quite a bit, had a vision,” says Frank. “He saw a need for a place close to New York City that could cater to families, and could have a private club’s benefits – like short lift lines.”

Windham operated in that manner for more than 10 years.

“During the mid-’70s,” Dan Frank relates, “a couple of things happened. Tom was putting in a new lift, a big capital project, and at the same time fire destroyed a substantial portion of the lodge. He had to rebuild at the same time as putting in the lift, and never recovered financially.”

Sheridan contacted Irv Naylor and invited him to buy the ski area, by then under bank control. Irv did just that.

Naylor, already owner of Ski Roundtop and Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania, had a vision for building a premier resort. He looked at the other ski operations nearby, and reasoned that having another thriving ski area in the county would be good for the region, and could hopefully make the region more competitive with the Adirondacks and Vermont.

In Naylor’s first year, some $3 million (“a ton of money back then,” Frank reminds us) were spent to improve the operation.

Since then, Frank comments, “The company has always been deeply committed to providing the best ski experience we can.” Innovations that improve the guest experience have predominated. As Dan points out, “Our company was the first to offer ‘one-stop shopping.’ Historically people had to buy tickets, ski rentals and ski lessons in separate places. We made it possible to buy all products at once. For instance, you could go to the rental shop and buy rentals, tickets and lessons right there.”

Other innovations followed. Windham was among the first ski areas to use waste energy from snowmaking to heat the base lodge. Windham created one of first state-of-the-art children’s learning centers. Designed to be self-sufficient and to create a quality experience, it’s located close to the curb for parents’ convenience and close to the slopes for the kids’ convenience; it’s also equipped with radiant floor heat, big windows, a rental shop and small cafeteria.

It’s rare, Dan points out, to have the opportunity to build a brand new base lodge. “It’s a testament to Irv that he was willing to let us do that. Usually lodges are created by putting addition on top of addition. We needed a substantial addition. But, for ten percent more, we could build a whole new building and get what we wanted. Irv was willing to tear the building down on April first, with the faith that we could rebuild it on time and on budget.”

It’s that commitment to the product that has allowed Windham Mountain to flourish. “The company literally invests every penny that we earn, and every penny that’s reasonable to borrow, back into our ski areas,” Dan concludes. “We’re one of the few companies with a proven track record, good credit history, and history of profitable seasons. Irv’s a risk taker. But, he takes calculated risks, and he’s an incredibly smart businessman. He has a wonderful attitude. He’s very forward thinking and committed to making things the best they can be.”

When Windham Mountain turns 24 next week during Winter Carnival, all those changes and that philosophy will be in evidence. The area’s growth will be in evidence from the activities – boardercrosses, races, a ski marathon, night skiing and snowtubing; to the facilities – high-quality manmade snow, superb grooming, high-speed lifts and a state-of-the-art base lodge; to its attitude – apres-ski fun and top-notch customer service.

That’s a history worth celebrating.

Upcoming Events at Windham Mountain

January 18 & 22, Winter Carnival – Windham Mountain and the Town of Windham get all wrapped up this year with great activities all week long to celebrate Windham Mountain’s brithday week. Everything is capped off with fireworks Saturday night at 9pm.

January 23, Adaptive Sports Foundation Doctors and Physical Therapists Race – This race is open to, well, doctors and physical therapists! (Thus the name.) The race includes a lift ticket, a fun race, awards, an apr??s ski party and lots of fun! Put together a team of four and compete for the team trophy and bragging rights for a year, or race on an individual basis and compete for 1st and 2nd place by age category.

January 24, Bring Your Daughter to the Slopes Day – Bring your daughter to Windham Mountain and with the purchase of your ticket we will give you hers at half price. It’s a great day to get some quality time with your daughter!

January 24-28, Women’s Week – Calling all women! Join Windham Mountain for a chance to take your skiing and snowboarding to the next level. This week we will have great deals for all women that are ready to learn how to ski or ride – including instruction by women for women, discounted tickets and demos. Don’t miss “The Fear Workshop for Women” on Jan. 26-28. Join Mermer Blakeslee & company for a three-day intensive program to explore the mind-body connection in skiing. The workshop is for skiers of intermediate to expert level who are seeking more mental freedom in the race course or a bump run. For more info, contact the Windham Mountain Snow Sports School at (518) 734-4300 x1230.